Crux Now reports that a group of prisoners was scheduled to have lunch with Pope Francis. This is where they were supposed to be — eating lunch with Pope Francis and then escorted back to their facility.
The lunch was supposed to take place during his October 1 trip to Bologna with 20 prisoners from a local drug rehabilitation facility. Refugees and the poor of the area were also supposed to be in attendance during this "Lunch of Solidarity" at San Petronio Basilica.
But instead of showing up and staying with the Holy Father throughout the entire lunch, two Italian prisoners passed on their invitation and instead used it as an opportunity to escape.
According to a local newspaper, the prisoners escaped sometime during the lunch hour, although it still remains unclear whether the two actually showed up in the first place to eat lunch. They haven't yet been found by authorities.
Pope Francis regularly eats lunch with prisoners during his trips and events. On Holy Thursday, he washed the feet of prisoners and held a Jubilee Mass for prisoners at the Vatican last year.
The Pope has consistently delivered a message to prisoners of the world: never lose hope in God's mercy.
During the homily for his Mass for the Jubilee of Prisoners, the Pope said that "hope is a gift from God." He then remarked that "whenever someone makes a mistake, the Father's mercy is all the more present, awakening repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace."
His lunch with prisoners was part of a greater effort to be the Pope of mercy.
Last week, Pope Francis remarked that he is opposed to the death penalty, which he calls "contrary to the Gospel." No prisoner should be put to death, argued the Pope, because "it is voluntarily decided to suppress a human life, which is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator and which God only in the final analysis is the true judge and guarantor." The pontiff then remarked that capital punishment "is an inhumane measure that humiliates, in any way it is pursued, human dignity."
In this regard, Pope Francis joins the ranks of St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, who repeatedly called for the abolition of both abortion and the death penalty. Both popes encouraged nations to work toward "just" means of punishment and public order without recourse to capital punishment.
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